July 2, 2018 | 11:20am ET
BY DAVID PAGNOTTA, The Fourth Period



TORONTO, ON -- With the free agent market thinning out significantly, a number of teams are turning their attention to the trade market in hopes of adding to their rosters this off-season.

James Neal was the last big fish up for grabs heading late into Sunday night, but he agreed to a five-year deal with the Calgary Flames, leaving forward Patrick Maroon and defenceman Calvin de Haan as the two players left on TFP’s Top 20 UFA List.

Okay, Joe Thornton is also on the list, but he’s expected to sign a one-year deal with the San Jose Sharks, so he doesn’t count.

Maroon and de Haan remain in talks this morning. They are expected to make a decision later today – they could hold off, but that’s the expectation.

Speaking with members of several teams over the last 24 hours, it’s clear everyone has zeroed in on trade talks.

Yesterday evening, the Buffalo Sabres shipped centre Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues for a monster package (Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson, a 2019 1st round-pick and a 2021 second-round pick), starting things off. The Blues also paid O’Reilly’s $7.5 million bonus he was due yesterday.

For the teams that balked at the asking price – the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders had serious interest, but pulled out of the race – they’ll look elsewhere. 

For some, like the Habs, as much as they’d like to bolster their roster, they might not be in a position to cough up significant assets in order to gain immediate help. For others, like the Islanders, they’ll continue to scour the market and if the right deal presents itself, GM Lou Lamoriello isn’t afraid to pull the trigger.

We’ll continue to hear the likes of Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk out of Carolina, Erik Karlsson, Bobby Ryan, Zack Smith and Craig Anderson out of Ottawa, Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes out of The Big Apple, Artemi Panarin out of Columbus, Ryan Callahan out of Tampa Bay, and Max Pacioretty, of course, out of Montreal, get tossed around the rumour mill, and a few more will join them along the way.

As GMs look for ways to fill holes they couldn’t fill in a fairly thin free agency crop, this week should yield some interesting speculation.

Starting with...

Karlsson expected to reject Senators offer

While this is not yet confirmed – especially since Senators GM Pierre Dorion wouldn’t comment on anything but the weather in yesterday’s press conference (and apparently he didn’t really want to get into that, either) – word on the street seems to suggest the Sens offered Karlsson an eight-year extension worth around, but not less than, $80 million.

If that holds to be accurate, that certainly won’t get the deal done, and I’m not even sure why the team bothered presenting it.

It’s hard to envision Karlsson signing for less than $12 million, per season, on a new contract. It’s almost harder to envision him signing any extension with the Senators, based on all the chatter over the last few months and weeks.

The Senators and Vegas Golden Knights have had ongoing trade discussions for Karlsson and Bobby Ryan dating back to the trade deadline in February. A deal was believed to be close then, and a deal was believed to be close a day before the NHL Draft. In both circumstances, the Knights felt they were close to a deal, according to a source close to the situation.

I’ll give the Senators credit, though. They told their fans they’d pitch an offer to Karlsson on July 1 – why not sooner, you ask... because shut up, that’s why – and they stuck to their word. Granted, they never said the offer would be a good one or not, but it was pitched, nonetheless.

The frustration continues to mount for Karlsson, Ryan and their teammates, who have been sitting on pins and needles waiting for a deal to be finalized. It still hasn’t happened. The Knights are frustrated. The fans, well, they’re in a whole different level of frustrated. The New York Rangers, who remain in the mix for Karlsson and Ryan, are, one can argue, also frustrated.

If/when Karlsson rejects Ottawa’s initial offer, perhaps that’ll give Dorion and the Senators the public ammunition they need to sign off on a trade.

But the Sens aren’t the only team waiting to make a move.

Habs remain engaged Pacioretty talks

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin tried to trade Pacioretty last month. He’s tried to trade him for a while. He just hasn’t been able to make it work, and he sure as hell won’t swing a trade until he’s certain the fanbase won’t fully destroy him on talk radio.

As Dennis Bernstein reported after the NHL Draft, the Canadiens never granted the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders or San Jose Sharks permission to speak with then-agent Pat Brisson about an extension for Pacioretty.

And we’re told a trade with any of the teams, by sources around the organization and on the other side of the table, was never agreed upon with any team. Were there talks? Definitely. Did things get close? They did.

But here’s the kicker... and this is where verbiage and how people word things can twist public perception.

From what we’ve been told since DB’s report is that the Canadiens were the ones to discuss an extension with Pacioretty and a long-term deal worth around $8 million per season had been talked about. So, technically, yes, outside clubs were not granted permission. Semantics. Pacioretty has a new agent now in Allan Walsh and he’s got the conch when it comes to any further contract talks.

On the trade scene, Pacioretty’s still very much in play. Bergevin can’t afford to mess this one up, but he’s having those talks. Do teams like the Sharks, Islanders and Dallas Stars, who missed out on John Tavares, up their efforts for him? Will other clubs in need of scoring punch step up? All entirely possible.

But as you already know, Pacioretty isn’t the only scoring winger in play.

Panarin wants to be paid

As we reported early this morning, Artemi Panarin is believed to want between $9 million and $10 million per season. It’s clear he doesn’t want to sign an extension with the Blue Jackets, or they’d have pursued discussions by now, and he and his agent informed the team they aren’t interested in going down that road, right now.

Several teams are interested in Panarin, but we’re told the Blue Jackets aren’t giving teams permission to speak with his agent about an extension. If they stand firm, it’s buyer beware.

Columbus is looking for a top-six forward, a top draft pick and one more asset for Panarin. Trade talks are ongoing, and some teams may circle back this week.

Lonely Island

It wasn’t the best of days for the Islanders and their fans yesterday, as captain-no-more John Tavares left and signed with the Maple Leafs.

I understand the frustration (that word, again) from the Islanders fan base, but if it helps at all, this was a tremendously hard decision for JT.

During the press conference, when speaking about his time with the organization, he teared up, his lip quivered, and his face started turning a little red. All the Twitter hate isn’t really justified, folks. The guy genuinely loved being an Islander, but it was time to move on. Maybe shift some of that hate to the folks who failed to build a winning culture there for years? 

As Tavares told us yesterday, the future in/on Brooklyn/Long Island is bright. Lou is leading the charge off the ice. Barry Trotz is in charge of the on-ice product. The young firepower the team has up front and coming up is impressive, and there’s a lot more work to be done.

The Islanders have been involved in trade talks for the last 24-48 hours. They were hot on O’Reilly trail, but pulled out near the end and an hour after doing so, he was dealt to St. Louis. 

Lamoriello isn’t going to rush anything, but he’s very much focused on retooling the roster. They want (almost have) to add a top-six forward, help on the backend (they remain in the hunt to re-sign Calvin de Haan), and they’ll get a goalie, be it Craig Anderson or someone else.

The Islanders took a hit yesterday, but to quote the legendary wordsmith Rocky Balboa: “It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”


David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period.
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